HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – In 2019, almost 1,300 teens in West Virginia became mothers. This pushed the state to have the sixth-highest pregnancy rate in the country.
One organization in the Mountain State, THINK through Mission West Virginia, is working to turn those numbers around.
“We start out with goal setting and then we work our way up to teaching the kids what self worth is. what a healthy relationship is. what red flags to look for in a bad relationship and then we go into pregnancy prevention,”Rebecca White, THINK Marketing Director
The THINK program serves between 14,000 and 16,000 students across the state each year, and White says she’s noticed a few trends.
White says with a cycle of poverty, there’s also a “…cycle of that child having a greater risk of being a teen parent. So with that and the lack of education that comes along with the poverty cycle, we just see all kinds of economic barriers”
Associate Professor of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology at Marshall Health, Jennie Yoost says the trends can be broken down even further.
“If you look at our state specifically you’re going to see major changes when you go county to county comparing rural and urban areas,”Jennie Yoost, Marshall Health Associate Professor of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology
Yoost says the reason for the difference in teen pregnancy rates between the more and less rural counties across the state is because of access to necessary services.
Some of the more rural counties appear to lack access to necessary contraception, and you see the same pattern when you compare West Virginia to other states.
Yoost says she thinks that “…while there are tools and clinics out there where access is good, there are also areas where access is not the best” here in West Virginia.
Both White and Yoost agree that although the number of teen pregnancies in the state is high, the rate is much lower than recent years, and the trend is actually plateauing.